review by Maryom
Ajatashatru has for years been impressing the people of his small Indian village with his tricks and sleight of hand, fooling them into thinking he is a real magic-working fakir. Now he's persuaded them to buy him a new bed of nails - not just any old bed of nails though, but the Ikea Hertsyorbak, to buy which he needs to travel to Paris - again funded by the villagers. His long-distance shopping trip is going fine - till he discovers the bed he wanted is out of stock and he must return the next day. Having to spend an unexpected night in Paris, Ajatashatru decides to do what many of us have probably wanted to try - stay in an Ikea show-home - until he hears people approaching... Could it be Security coming to throw him out? If so, will he be able to get back into the store the next day to pick up his lovely new bed? Hiding inside a wardrobe seems like the sensible thing to do....but it's just the start of Aja's adventures...
This is, as the title says, the story of an extraordinary journey - one which starts like the Pevensie children's with a wardrobe - but instead of going through the wardrobe Narnia-style, Ajatashatru gets carried away in one! Taken to Great Britain very much against his will, Aja wants to do nothing more than get back to the Ikea store in Paris, to pick up his bed of nails and maybe, if luck is on his side, be reunited with the fascinating French woman he met in the cafeteria. Other people have different plans for him though, and he finds himself travelling this way and that across Europe - with a brief stop over in Libya - by truck, plane or boat, floating off in a hot air balloon or stowing away in a trunk; making new friends as he goes - from illegal immigrants to a beautiful actress; pursued by an irate Parisian taxi-driver and his relations; shedding his con-artist life and re-inventing himself as a person who spreads goodness wherever he goes.
It's a story of bizarre events and improbable coincidences which despite its overall light-hearted, even farcical, feel, also has serious comments to make about the plight of illegal immigrants - exploited by everyone who 'helps' them on their way, shunted from one country to another, neither reaching their hoped-for destination nor able to go home.
Translated by Sam Taylor
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Harville SeckerGenre - adult fiction, humour